The airspace is rumbling, and it’s not from the usual summertime convective activity. From Papua New Guinea to Iceland, increased seismic activity reminds us volcanos are a “popup” issue that can have an impact on air traffic. However, authorities are more prepared than ever to understand and minimize their impact. Recognizing the effects of volcanic ash (VA) on air travel, institutions, such as NASA, have spent a good deal of time studying and attempting to predict the movement of VA. Their ultimate goal is to forecast dispersion, so that air service navigation providers and airlines are better positioned to handle air traffic flow management in an effected area. Continue reading
Part III – What does “Best-Served” mean?
By: Emily Bromberg, Matt Elliott and Shervin Ahmadbeygi
In the last edition we explored the complexities of defining “Best Equipped” or “Most Capable.” Choosing how (or even whether) to “best serve” the flights we’ve designated as “best equipped,” however, is another complicated issue that involves potential changes to both ATC operations and policy.
Part II – What does “Best-Equipped” mean?
By: Emily Bromberg, Matt Elliott and Shervin Ahmadbeygi
Even though the meaning, intent, and language surrounding BEBS might seem a bit murky, one thing is certain: increased throughput and efficiency in the National Airspace System is a good thing, and certain equipment helps to enable this. But how does “better” equipment result in increased throughput or capacity? And what do we mean by “best equipped,” anyway? Or even “equipped,” for that matter? The answers aren’t so simple.
Part I – Genesis
By: Shervin Ahmadbeygi and Matt Elliott
If you’re actively involved in any aspect of the FAA’s NextGen program, you’ve heard the storm of rhetoric and buzzwords surrounding the Best Equipped Best Served (BEBS) strategy. The program has been rebranded over the years as “Operational Incentives” from section 222 of the FAA’s 2012 Reauthorization bill, or the more recent term, Aircraft Priority Access Selection Sequence (AirPASS) used in the 2013 NextGen Implementation Plan. But, what is BEBS exactly? And, do the current infrastructure, procedures, and technology even allow us to consider such a strategy?
I recently participated in a panel discussion sponsored by RTCA at the Washington Convention Center. The primary focus of the panel was to discuss the NextGen notion of “Best Equipped Best Served”. I have a problem with the way this particular element is being batted around, because it connotes a winner/loser atmosphere which in reality doesn’t pay dividends nor supports that which we all in the industry embrace, improved service for all. Let me give you a couple of examples especially as relates to the PBN or RNP strategies and associated activity.
The Reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration was finally completed the end of January. While much has been said about the Reauthorization, not much has been said about its adequacy.
As we reflect on where we are and ponder resolutions for the coming year, I think of NextGen and some of the subtle, but significant, experiences of the past year. The NextGen we need requires change. Yet, we know change does not come easily. In fact, I have seen a recurring resistance to change.
A quick look back at 2011 reveals lots of activity, some real good, some not so good. I feel compelled to reflect ever so briefly on one of the major happenings towards the end of the year. It was the resignation of Randy Babbitt as Administrator of the FAA. Clearly this took all of us by surprise, and to be sure it was a sad event by all accounts. I believe that many of us could find it in our hearts to forgive most people of a DUI offense, especially if there was no damage done except to the offender. Alas there is zero tolerance for this sort of thing, especially for the Administrator of the FAA. So his departure was a forgone conclusion.
On a recent vacation to Germany, we found ourselves spending a considerable amount of time on the autobahn. Over the years, I have marveled at the interesting differences in cultures, values, thinking patterns, and design. We both have the same problem at hand. A lot of people want to go from point A to point B. We want to allow them to move as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible. Yet, for some reason, we’ve come up with approaches that seem to be totally different.
For a long time now the talk among most people in the industry I’ve come in contact with has been about globalization, harmony, no borders, blending NextGen with SESAR, in terms of technology, procedures and timing. I believe this is all good stuff, and frankly the right way to go as the world becomes smaller and air travel becomes more affordable and more widely available to so many, especially in developing nations. Recently, I spent time at the US-China Aviation Summit, and clearly that message was foremost on nearly everyone’s agenda. Sure there was lots of talk about their needs as they prepare their country for 4-60 more airports in the next 20 years, and their need for technology and infrastructure, airplanes, crews, and the list goes on, almost limitless. These folks and others who are beginning to see the wisdom in creating and maximizing their aviation industries, are poised to garner every kind of assistance available, whether in terms of experience, or products. There are partnerships all over the world where employment opportunity is available for companies not necessarily headquartered there or not. While I don’t have specific figures, it’s fair to say that even in China, many big and small American companies employ Chinese workers. I suspect this is a solid and rewarding business decision by those long entrenched or by those trying to break into a burgeoning market. I recall the difficulty we at Metron Aviation faced when trying to garner some of the SESAR work early on, and were pretty much told that unless we had a footprint in Europe, it wasn’t likely that we might enjoy some of the business opportunities over there. Yet, there were and continue to be rather large American companies deeply involved in SESAR as the “globalization” rationale continues to be the back beat of the industry’s music. We spend countless hours talking and acting in “collaboration” all around the world, believing that this is the right way to effect change and build the best products and procedures. We include elements from every part of the industry, especially as we move ahead in operational terms. Seeing air traffic controllers, dispatchers, and meteorological types, along with traffic managers, pilots, and airport operators, just to name a nominal group, explore and execute system improvements is very satisfying indeed. It wasn’t that long ago when I was an air traffic controller, that I made decisions for the airlines. I decided who could takeoff and land, with no idea as to the impact to an airlines business model. As we embraced collaborative decision making (CDM), I found it an eye opener and moved to re-establish my role as someone who could afford a slot without necessarily determining who or what aircraft should fill it. Leaving this decision where it best belonged, to the operator. The foundation of Air Traffic Flow Management is now in collaboration, and rightly so. Through those early years of CDM, more and more was learned and shared among industry groups, resulting in a whole new way to conduct business. Putting every stakeholder in a position to both participate in a plans development and eager to execute it. The days of gaming each other were quickly on the decline, and there was a new vigor around how the system would perform.